Getty versus Google

two barn owls illustrating getty versus google

I have a photograph on iStockPhoto, a site that was later bought by Getty.

Today I got this email from Getty asking for my help.

This Is The Text Of The Email From Getty

As you may know, in April of this year, Getty Images filed a competition law complaint against Google in the European Union in a bid to help stop its anti-competitive scraping of imagery created by contributors like yourself.

Since replacing thumbnails with high res image files in 2013, Google Images has gone from being the world’s largest image search engine to the world’s largest publisher and distributor of free imagery. However, the content Google is giving away is yours – and it’s not free.

The changes that Google made to image search in 2013 means that Google keeps significant traffic that would otherwise go to the source sites, as well as all of the user data that it can then use to target advertising. Data related to image viewing is clearly valuable, as evidenced by Google’s launch of shopping ads directly within its image search service in May. Meanwhile Google pays nothing for the high-quality content that it appropriates for its own benefit.

But there is more: Google does not itself host the large-format images, it instead uses the bandwidth of the source sites to host and serve those images. Google presents the image in a “frame” so that the user remains unaware it has viewed content on the content-owner’s website. Google also allows users to right-click, copy and save images, and does not include prominent copyright notices or photographer attribution, thus facilitating copyright infringement and turning users into “accidental pirates.”

In response to complaints, Google has suggested that photographers can simply opt-out of image search using the robots.txt protocol. Given Google’s dominant market share and the fact that Google is the main gateway to the internet, its proposed solution is no solution at all: photographers can either surrender to Google’s edict and accept Google’s presentation of images, or become invisible online.

We are working closely with policy makers and industry groups to not only prevent Google from profiting further from your work, but to give you back control over your work, opportunity to access revenue that is rightfully yours, and ultimately, to make sure that you’re competing with Google on a level playing field.

As promised, we now have a way you can support the complaint by putting your name to letters which seek the help of the U.S. Senate Antitrust Sub-Committee that has oversight of competition law in the U.S., and the head of the European Commission’s Competition Authority, asking them to help put a stop to the anti-competitive scraping of your content.

Wherever you live in the world, whatever part of the visual community you contribute to, we invite you to sign both of these letters if you, like us, believe Google’s actions threaten our livelihoods and the marketplace for imagery.

You can find the letters by following these links:
–Sign the letter to the US FTC
–Sign the letter to the European Commission

You can also visit our public Advocacy page where you can:

–Read our open letter from Yoko Miyashita, General Counsel,
–Read our press release on our Press Room
–Share the video explaining why we are against right-click piracy

By signing these letters, you will be letting legislators and regulators know that they need to stand up to Google and support the hardworking photographers whose livelihood is diminishing with every day that Google is allowed to continue this practice.

It’s simple and will only take a few moments. By signing on to this letter and making your voice heard, you can ensure a competitive and healthy marketplace for content creators like yourself and for future generations.

We need your voice. Take action NOW!

The paragraph that interests me is the one I have emboldened.

My Take On This

It seems to me that Getty is trying to have its cake and eat it.

Photographers, or by extension Getty that represents photographers, cannot complain about the exposure that Google gives those photographers at the same time as stating that image search stops those people from getting their fair rewards.

Further, Getty is in the business of licensing images, and I do not see how an image hosted on a web site and scraped by Google (if that is in fact what Google does) will be large enough to be of use to anyone wanting an image for print usage or large-size online display.

Of course, if a photographer does post a large-size image online, then anyone could scrape the image and it doesn’t take a Google to enable that.

In case you are wondering, I don’t think that Getty is accusing Google of scraping photos from Getty’s own site.

What are your thoughts on this?

Final Thoughts

I had a problem with the word ’embolden’. I had to look it up to make sure I was using it correctly. That is, I ‘almost’ knew I was using it correctly, but I also knew it had another meaning – so I thought maybe I was making an error.

For anyone else confused by this, here are the two definitions of embolden:


  1. give someone the courage or confidence to do something.

  2. cause a piece of text to appear in a bold typeface.

Creamy-Buff Bath

Building in the grounds of the park behind the Holburne Museum in Bath

The Holburne Museum is located in Sydney Pleasure Gardens, Bath, Somerset, England. The city’s first public art gallery, the Grade I listed building, is home to fine and decorative arts built around the collection of Sir William Holburne.

Tucked in a corner of the Sydney Pleasure Gardens behind the Holburne Museum in Bath is this little building.

Maybe it is too small to be a folly. More likely it is intentionally of its period to create an ambience in the park that echoes the grandeur of the city.

You can see the scale of the building from the cyclist to the right of it. It is a grand little building and in keeping with a grand town that knows just how grand it is.

And here is the view looking out onto Sydney Place from the front of the Holburne Museum. This street is echoed in many streets throughout the town. And in the upper town there are grand terraces in the same style.

Looking out onto Sydney Place from the front of the Holburne Museum in Bath

Almost all of the buildings in the centre of Bath are in this pale creamy-buff stone. I am not sure whether it is sandstone or limestone but it has weathered well.

We were told that the stone to the west into Somerset is a grey colour and that the stone to the east into Wiltshire is this same warm colour.

Although it is in the shade, I think the stone of the little building is greyer than the surrounding buildings. Perhaps it is Somerset stone?

The big question is whether grey or creamy-buff, the fact that it is everywhere would start to grate on my nerves? I have lived in places where all the stone is the same colour. In fact Edinburgh is such a city.

But it doesn’t oppress me. Bath, on the other hand, is such a tidy little place in a narrow and steep-sided valley that I think after a while it would get to be too much.

Here is a crop from the right of the frame of the previous shot. You can see the way the names of the streets are incised into the stonework. Tamara observed how it was a sign of just how wealthy Bath was when it was being built.


How Is Your Support System?

room display at the american museum in bath, england

We’ve been away for two weeks. We got back a couple of days ago and learned this morning that a 22-inch water pipe burst about a week ago and deprived large parts of Edinburgh of water. Some houses had no water for three days.

We heard about it because a water main burst today, and the question of how long the repair would take was a talking point. In fact, the repair was done quickly.

The burst main reminded me of a conversation I had in the American Museum in Bath, which we visited last week. The photo here is a panoramic shot of the room at it would have been a couple of hundred years ago.

The light was low, so the photo is pixelated and full of noise, but I hope you get the idea.

The person I met and I discussed how ‘near to the edge’ people lived in some of the frontier regions.

If things went wrong there was perhaps no backup, no one to come to their aid. And we talked about how today the infrastructure that keeps everything ticking along gives us so much but is only as resilient as the weakest link.

Imagine if the water supply was cut off for longer. Then people would have to make the rounds with water bowsers. But if disease spread because of the lack of water, maybe that would cause a further breakdown.

It all seems tightly wound and I wonder what would cause it to fail – not that I want to find out.

By the way, header image that is currently at the top of this site is the view over the hills and valley at the rear of the American Museum in Bath.